Fine Tuning the Customer Experience: Training, Brand Perception, & Reviews

At the chain-restaurant Dick’s Last Resort, customers expect obnoxious service as part of the experience. There must be a call for rudeness somewhere because Chicago’s stronghold of rude, Ed Debevic’s, will be reopening within the next year. Both establishments are not for the faint of heart. More importantly, all restaurant guests are looking for a way to escape the everyday to let loose, laugh, and enjoy good food and drink.

Marketing types usually delegate customer service and experience to an operations group.  Escape from this tunnel vision and synchronize operations and marketing together. For example Amazon’s obsession with customer satisfaction has made its brand name synonymous with superior service. Don’t be a Dick’s Last Resort; be like Amazon.

Staff Training

The staff is the ultimate personification of brand image. Both front and back of house employees must be trained appropriately.  Beyond a standard operating procedures manual, keep in mind the following:

  • Grandma always said, “you catch more flies with a spoonful of honey.” Today, over-the-top friendliness can be just as much of a turn-off as rudeness. Leave the saccharine in the sugar packet caddy and stick to simple friendliness and smiles.
  • Remember to engage the senses. What should customers experience as they walk in the door?  Music, noise level, the right smells (not the bathroom smells), and lighting are a few examples. FOH staff should have a keen eye on anything out of place that could affect the brand image.
  • With open kitchens, appearance and cleanliness are everything. The last guest certainly won’t want to see someone standing on the open door of the range, hosing down the ventilation hood to clean up at the end of the day. Demand impeccable execution.
  • Put the personal cell phones away! Nothing is more important than your guests’ satisfaction. If the staff is distracted, they are most likely not delivering the highest customer service. 

Beyond Branding

Restaurant branding can imply sustainability, quick service, or a unique atmosphere. Of course, advertising campaigns, logos, staff dress code, should all visually encapsulate your brand messaging.

To take your brand to the next level, know your customer base and anticipate their needs, including menu needs and environment. According to the National Restaurant Association:

  • 75% of smartphone users view restaurant menus on their phone at least three times per year
  • 70% of restaurant-goers are ordering more healthful meals
  • 68% of customers prefer locally-sourced and produced food.

Does your brand reflect the top consumer trends? If not, you may be in the market for a re-branding campaign. Reflecting these trends in your branding can help you create repeat business. Customer loyalty means higher sales, higher sales equates to larger profits. Pretty simple equation so far.

Part of branding should also include the ability to be searchable. More than ever, customers are using their smartphones to look up information, not their laptop. Your restaurant information, including website and menus, should be simple and easy to find on mobile devices. Be sure that Google has all your relevant information.

But remember, with this visibility comes a flurry of feedback, especially on social media.

Executing on Feedback

Online reviews are ubiquitous, thanks to sites like Yelp, Zomato, OpenTable, and Trip Advisor. Even Facebook and Twitter comments can carry significant weight. To begin, utilize software, like Review Trackers, to consolidate all online reviews into one place for efficiency. See review responses as another arm of marketing and brand image. Follow these tips:

  • Take ownership of mistakes and offer solutions
  • Take at least 24, if not 48 hours, to craft a response
  • Make sure to designate an individual to be responsible for replies
  • Never be emotional; try to include facts and utilize light humor, if the situation allows
  • Most importantly, resolve the issue, which can include asking the customer for personal contact via phone or e-mail

Finally, always respond to positive online reviews and thank all patrons for their feedback.  

Customers return to any restaurant because of a positive personal experience, not because a restaurant is a civilized establishment with a lack of gum under the tables. Embrace staff training, brand perception, and review responses to fine tune your public image.